Thursday, 13 October 2011

Going through the Motions

I saw Sir Andrew Motion last night as part of Wirral Bookfest and he was rather charming and very easy on the ear (also the eye, in a Charles Dance sort of way)

He said a couple of things which were really encouraging (to me anyway):

1. That he didn't come from a family that read. But a teacher - Mr Wade - opened up his mind to poetry and "...changed my life. Gave me my life." If I were a teacher I would be so inspired by this - and I needed to know this having just read in this article on 'the rise of rhyme' that:

"As recently as 2008, a survey
of 1,200 British primary school
teachers for the UKLA found that
22% could not name a single poet."

2. How poems are partly the creation of your rational, educated, manipulative, conscious mind (he was talking more about himself than me here!) and partly the murkier depths of the unconscious - so you don't always know instantly what they're going to be about or what form they should take nor should you try too hard to make them conform to shapes they don't want to be.

3. That he tweaks and twiddles, puts away, tweaks again, passes to friends, tweaks, leaves a while, gets published, hates it, tweaks again etc etc

4. That his Poetry Archive project - which makes available poets reading their own work - historic and contemporary is a massive success despite struggling for funds. And with 250,000 unique users and 1,500,000 poems listened to every month more poems are being listened to now than probably in the history of the world.

My only regret of the evening is that I never got a chance to get to the bottom of the story my colleague was telling me about a conversation she'd had with him earlier involving 'moist gussets' - it has to be some kind of 'favourite word' game... hasn't it?


  1. I suppose he could have been referring to those emotionally vulnerable types, who use poetry as a kind of crotch.

  2. I can think of nothing to say, but wish to defend my right not to say it.

  3. ps your blog list still needs updating.

  4. Martin - the ones who are fond of Pantouns?

    Dave - I'm glad you did. I'll update the blog list now!

  5. Well done. I'll write a new post tomorrow to celebrate.

  6. Well I’m very depressed about that statistic. As a fairly recently retired Primary School headteacher I can honestly say I did everything in my power to bring poetry into my school. I can’t think of one of my staff who wouldn’t be able to name a poet. The curriculum certainly squeezed poetry out but there are ways and means of getting round it. Who the heck were all those teachers and where had they been all their lives? I really would like to know a bit more about that research and how the questions were phrased. I shall investigate further.

  7. Dave - I think it's a repeat... or deja vu

    Martin - Could be verse

    Little Nell - I know, I was horrified. You'd expect this would be covered in basic general knowledge / reading an occasional newspaper or something even if they didn't have an interest.

  8. Swimming in Venice. Not so much swimming, as going through the motions. Sorry.